by Valerie Nusbaum
It was quiet inside the toy factory. Oh, Santa insisted on calling the wood and glass facility a workshop, but everyone knew it was a factory with assembly lines, conveyor belts, and noisy machines that belched and snorted and spit out toys. The elves still did some of the work by hand, but times had changed and heavy demand for product had meant that new ways of manufacturing needed to be implemented. Fewer and fewer elves were applying for jobs that didn’t pay cold, hard cash, so the machines were building more and more of the toys.
It was early December. Snow was blanketing everything at the North Pole, and the white flakes were still falling hard and blowing around outside. At least it was warm inside the factory and there was plenty of food and drink. Poor Mrs. Claus and her elf kitchen staff could barely keep up with the baking. Hungry factory-worker elves ate a LOT of cookies and drank a lot of cocoa, at least the boys did. Thank goodness the elves had had the good sense to unionize and strike until Santa implemented a dental plan. All that sugar was ruining their teeth.
Most of the boys were outside in the snow “testing” out a new remote-controlled flying contraption that promised to make life easier, while providing hours of mindless entertainment for children. The drone-like device had a hidden camera so that parents could monitor their children from their phones, but, more importantly, the new toy flew over a designated target and sprayed a stinky-smelling vapor that lasted for a very long time. The elf designer was tentatively calling the new toy the “Stink Bomber,” but he realized that the name needed some tweaking. Apparently, the toy needed tweaking as well because the odor was way too strong and offensive, and it was leaving some of the elves gagging and running for cover.
The girls sat inside where it was warm, dry, and sweetly scented, and cautiously nibbled and sipped. A steady diet of cookies, candy canes, and hot cocoa didn’t do wonders for tiny elf hips and thighs.
“I’d give almost anything for a salad,” said Bernice. “I mean, it’s lovely of Mrs. Claus to bake special sugar-free cookies for me, but I need something healthier.” Bernice was diabetic and all those carbs weren’t good for her. “Besides, these things taste like cardboard.”
The other girls rolled their eyes and ignored Bernice’s griping. It seemed that Bernice was always unhappy about something. She’d even changed her elf name. You see, whenever a new elf came to work at the factory, Mrs. Claus had the task of assigning a new name, one which appropriately reflected the Christmas season. Some of the other girls were now called Merry, Holly, Ivy, Joy, and Carol, which were all very lovely, Christmas-y names. Bernice was given an elf name, too, but she promptly changed it back to her old name, exclaiming that no one wanted to be called “Ho.” And truthfully, Mrs. Claus did kind of miss the mark with that one.
Jolly, the elf shop foreman (and also Holly’s twin brother), glanced out the window and yelled, “Oh no!” The boys were lying on top of the snow, prone and unconscious. Clearly, the spray from the drones had been toxic and had caused the boys to pass out. Jolly screamed for the medics and quickly and efficiently had all the boy elves transported to the medical facility.
Luckily, Jingles had stayed inside during the break. Jingles was the elf who had designed the drone. “I told you it wasn’t ready to be tested yet. Now, what do we do?” cried Jingles.
The machines were ready to begin production on thirty million drones that very day. “We’ll never have all these orders ready by Christmas Eve without our full staff. Plus, I have to redesign the drone.”
Bernice piped up and said, “We girls can help, you know. We can do more than paint pretty doll faces and sew plush animals.”
At that point, Santa strode into the room and announced that all of the sick elves would make full recoveries, but they’d need plenty of rest and fluids for the next week or so. “We’ll all have to work double shifts to get the toys ready by Christmas Eve.”
Jingles set about refining his drone design but it was no use. He didn’t know how to fix it. He sat down hard and put his little head in his hands.
Santa had never seen his elf staff so discouraged, so he asked if anyone had any ideas of how to make sure that good little boys and girls around the world had a wonderful Christmas.
Since Bernice was always ready with a suggestion, she said, “Children don’t need a lot of fancy toys, Santa. What they want most is to connect with their parents. Everyone is so busy these days.”
“That’s it!” yelled Jingles. “We’ll reconfigure the drone so that the kids can watch their parents and they can listen and talk to each other through microphones and recorders!”
The elves rejoiced and worked all day and night right up to December 24, Christmas Eve. They loaded Santa’s sleigh with the new drones, and Santa left one at every house. The kids didn’t know what to do with them, and the parents hated them. Jingles was sent back to the kitchen staff. Bernice changed her name to Noel and got a job at the North Pole Panera. Santa got rid of the machines and started paying his elves in cash, and the elves went back to making simple toys by hand. Mrs. Claus started a side business selling her cookies on Amazon.
Randy and I hope your holidays are wonderful!